27 Nov 2022 HCM Handbook
 

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Health Club Management Handbook - Rolling out

Franchise sector

Rolling out


Indoors, outdoors and online there is a lot going on in the franchise sector. Kath Hudson rounds up the latest deals and trends…

Former England football captain, David Beckham, has invested in F45 Photo: F45
Anytime Fitness is seeing enquiries from a wide range of franchisees Photo: Anytime Fitness
Photo: Anytime Fitness
Trib3 has signed a partnership with UGG for Benelux expansion Photo: Trib3
Inspired by the trend for outdoor workouts, Rise launched in 2021 Photo: Claire Downes
Empowered Brands will roll UBX out across UK and Ireland Photo: Empowered Brands
Australia is set to see some 100 Rumble boxing studios within five years Photo: Rumble:Xponential Fitness
Randy Hetrick’s latest venture, Outfit, is taking Florida by storm Photo: Outfit

One of the many impacts of COVID has been a change in circumstances and a reassessment of priorities which has led to a great many people exploring their entrepreneurial streak.

Franchising offers the perfect opportunity to buy a good-to-go business and health club franchises offer an appealing work-life balance.

Neil Randall, CEO of Anytime Fitness, says this has resulted in the company seeing enquiries from a wide range of potential franchisees. Even former England football captain David Beckham is getting in on the action with his investment in Australia-born brand, F45 last year and more recently his partnership in a new 3,500sq ft franchised studio in Kensington High Street, west London.

During the build back, the big franchise chains are getting busy. Anytime Fitness opened 16 new clubs during the nine-and-a-half months of 2021 trading and have a target of 25 clubs in 2022, to take the company past its 200-club landmark in the UK and Ireland.

“We’re excited to be part of a sector which can play a key role in reinvigorating high streets and retail and business parks,” says Randall. “Business parks have welcomed employees back to offices and want to support their wellbeing. Having an on-site health club fits very much into that 21st century business community.”

Anytime Fitness is also planning to provide wider health support for members beyond exercise. “Physical activity is just one part of leading a healthy lifestyle, we want our members to be able to access expert guidance, coaching and content across nutrition, rest/sleep, mental wellbeing and their work-life balance,” says Randall. “This will be brought to life by enhancing the education available to our club teams, as well as working with several experts in these fields.”

Dynamic growth
Millennial brand Trib3 is growing aggressively. Now with studios in UK, Spain, The Netherlands, Ireland and Finland, the company has secured franchise deals for more than 60 sites and is making a play for the US market. It also plans to open 10 studios in Greece and Cyprus over the next five years, with the first flagship site set to launch in October 2022.

The brand launched its first London site earlier this year, which will be followed by further studios in Greater London, as well as around the UK in Nottingham, Liverpool, Southampton and Woking.

In June 2021, Trib3 signed a partnership with multi-brand fitness chain, Urban Gym Group (UGG), for a 20-site expansion in Benelux. UGG’s co-CEO Jordy Kool said: “I saw straight away the commercial opportunity yielded by the uniqueness of the Trib3 brand and business model. I am looking forward to this next phase of the partnership and having my team be really hands-on in driving the further international expansion of the concept.”

Furthermore, Trib3 has become one of the first fitness operators to establish a presence in the metaverse, making its workouts available in The Sandbox, in a collaboration with OliveX.

Trib3 CEO Kevin Yates says: “People will be able to swap Trib3 Sweat Points they earn in the gym for Dose tokens which can then be spent in the metaverse. Also, when you go for a run, for example, you’ll be able to have your friend running with you as an avatar.”

Andy Hall, at OliveX, says the brand lends itself to gamification: “From a customer’s very first workout at Trib3, their photo goes on the wall, and they’re able to train and work their way up the ranks. After 50 workouts a customer is a Warrior and after 1,000 – a Legend. This lends itself perfectly to the gamification and tokenism which is synonymous with the metaverse.”

Strong interest
Since the re-opening in April 2021, Énergie, owned by Empowered Brands, has opened 17 clubs in the UK and Ireland and one in Spain. Énergie Barcelona St Cugat is operated by industry veterans, Rod Hill and George Houtenbos, who signed a master franchise agreement with Empowered Brands in 2020, to develop 75 clubs in Spain over the next 10 years.

The Spanish clubs will have a slightly different model to the UK: a larger footprint, with three group exercise studios, as well as mindfulness classes in a specially designed space.

“When we signed the master franchise deal, our goal was to design a concept that would be attractive in a post-lockdown world in which members will look for more experiences,” says Hill. “Consumer expectations have changed and the pandemic has accelerated the need for traditional gyms and even low-cost gyms, to re-invent themselves for a different future.”

Empowered Brands also plans to acquire several new fitness and health brands by the end of 2023 and has kicked off its mission by becoming the master franchise for the UK and Ireland of Australian boxing brand, UBX.

John Jempson, managing director of UBX UK, said the objective is to open 250 clubs across the UK and Ireland: “The UBX product and experience has been tested over a five-year period in a range of environments and has consistently attracted successful franchisees and members.”

Chair of Empowered Brands, Pietro Nicholls, says this furthers the company’s ambition to have a powerful brand stable and be the curator of leading and emerging brands in Europe.

“We have hundreds of franchise enquiries every month from people who do not have the capital or appetite to build large fitness clubs and UBX, with its smaller venue requirements and lower cost of entry to the fitness market, is an ideal proven brand to take to a market we believe can only grow,” he says.

Boutique boxing brand Rumble, which originated in New York, has signed a master franchise agreement in Australia, which could see at least 100 studios open in the country over the next five years. The deal is with Box X Operations, a subsidiary of Boutique Fitness Studios, which is the existing master franchise partner in Australia for Xponential Fitness.

Matt Gordin, CEO of Boutique Fitness Studios, said: “We’re certain Australians will embrace the results-oriented workout and immersive customer experience at Rumble studios.”

Xponential Fitness has grown rapidly in recent years, opening 240 sites during 2020. Its portfolio includes Club Pilates, Pure Barre, Cyclebar, Stretch Lab, Row House, Yoga Six, Rumble, AKT and Stride.

Not all expansion is on land: F45 Training has taken to the seas, after signing a partnership with OneSpaWorld to offer its 45-minute functional fitness classes on board cruise ships.

“We’re committed to finding new and innovative ways to offer what we consider to be the world’s best workout to new and existing F45 members around the world,” says Adam Gilchrist, CEO of F45. “With this partnership, we are expanding the reach of F45’s fitness offering as we begin to market to the 30 million passengers who travel on cruise ships each year.”

Outdoor concepts
Exercising outdoor is another strong legacy of the pandemic and a couple of notable franchises emerged during this time. Rise Fitness Franchise launched in mid-2021 and combines outdoor circuits with wearable tech, expert coaching, weekly effort tracking and nutrition advice, blended with online support. Targeting the premium end of the market, the membership is subscription-based.

Currently three locations are operational and Rise will continue to scale into 2022, with three more ready to get off the starting blocks in Acton, Chigwell and Rushden & Raunds.

In the US, Randy Hetrick – famous for inventing TRX – launched Outfit in April 2021. These mobile vans are kitted out with an array of functional kit which can be set up for a class of up to 40 people in 10 minutes.

“During our first year, we have built up five corporately-owned and operated platforms in the Fort Lauderdale Metro, serving about 15 different locations,” says Hetrick. “By the end of 2022 we expect to have achieved proof of concept and to have raised a Series-A round to begin scaling the business, with a view to selling franchises in Q1 of 2023.”

Anytime Fitness

"We’re excited to be part of a sector which can play a key role in reinvigorating high streets" – Neil Randall, CEO, Anytime Fitness

Trib3

"People will be able to swap points earned in the gym for tokens to be spent in the metaverse" – Kevin Yates, CEO, Trib3

Boutique Fitness Studios

"Australians will embrace the immersive customer experience at Rumble studios" – Matt Gordin, CEO, Boutique Fitness Studios


Originally published in HCM Handbook 2022 edition

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